Our solar system gets even more interesting today as NASA scientists look a bit closer at Saturn’s moon, Mimas. What’s so special about Mimas? Seemingly nothing. Very few studies have been done on the moon.
Radwan Tajeddine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, explained to Science Magazine why. “We thought it was the most boring satellite,” Tajeddine said.
Tajeddine was lead author on the study of Mimas. Using images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, researchers studied how much the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn. The team then noticed Mimas had a more pronounced wobble than initially thought.
“The data suggest that something is not right, so to speak, inside Mimas,” says Tajeddine. “The amount of wobble we measured is double what was predicted.”
Toss it into several computer models, and two possibilities show up. The moon either has a frozen core shaped like a football, which is pretty cool. Or, there’s a liquid water ocean beneath it.
If Mimas has an ocean, it would join two other Saturn moons, Enceladus and Titan. With no apparent geological activity, a global ocean would be a surprise according to Tajeddine.
The computer models used on the study of Mimas show that if the moon has a liquid ocean – it would be 15 to 20 miles below the moon’s surface.
Additional measurements by Cassini should help Tajeddine and colleagues figure out which possibility is most likely.
You can learn more about Cassini’s mission here.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
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